Each day, no matter how cranky I may feel, no matter how sore my muscles, over-scheduled my calendar, or flooded my email inbox, I cannot help but marvel at some beautiful aspect of the world. Making coffee the other day, I stared in a trance at the sensual beauty of water dripping off the eave of my house, just outside my kitchen window. The steam from my twenty-year old espresso maker curled up towards the ceiling in silky waves, rising through the open air of the otherwise quiet kitchen, dissipating like dreamy memory.
What endlessly surprises me are those who can easily overlook the beauty around them. Look anywhere and you'll see it. Beauty is not hard to find. Even if you know this at some level, this bears repeating: everything in the world syncs up in exquisite balance. Everything. Honeybees have just barely the right proportions of mass versus power to carry just enough pollen to coax another season's flower bloom. The Earth itself is just barely close enough to The Sun to be warm enough for vast quantities of liquid water. Too close, water turns to gas. Too far and water freezes. If water means life, we live in the garden district.
Let there be no obfuscation here: I regard the world as a beautiful place, but I cannot help be simultaneously aware of another fundamental truth. Despite its exquisite beauty, the natural order of things tends to violence, calamity, and eternal dissolution.
Bear with me. I do not intend to pull you into a gray, existential morass, but this is important.
You already know how vicious things are. Are you struggling for a raise in your annual review this year? It is a struggle, isn't it? You're either working harder than ever before to stand out above the crowd, or you're working hard to convince your superiors that your efforts are worth being rewarded. If neither of these two scenarios apply, then you're trying to make peace with where you are – – something that can be particularly challenging if others around you are moving ahead.
Are your kids trying to get into decent colleges? Are you fighting a rearguard action in your backyard tomato patch against shockingly predatory deer who come to munch on your hard-earned salad plantings? Is there a daily entry ramp onto the highway that always provoke moments of white knuckle competition on your morning commute?
Don't pretend: it's competition everywhere you turn. As beautiful as the gazelles may be on the East African savanna, they're lunch for the great cats. As majestic as those great cats may be, others in the pride will turn their backs on aging scions like yesterdays kitty litter as soon as age overwhelms utility. And if you really want to pull a malaise of gloom down around your ears, just listen to the horrors of conflict and pain that groups of humans inflict on each other every single day in endless ways all over the world.
It's inevitable. You're not going to make it. Nobody gets out alive.
And yet, here we are, each of us, struggling together, trying to survive the vicious, strangely beautiful world.
Outside my kitchen window the butterflies are lovely in the mist following the rain. Puddles shimmer on the sidewalk. The wispy clouds reveal sensuous traces of morning color as they tease apart; a dance of the veils carried by breezy, high altitude muses.
Where do we fit? We are a media production company, determined to bring order to the world--order of a sort, order out of chaos, beauty built of thoroughly intangible things like ideas and light and sound. As a creative team that pursuit is as much about turning our backs on the vicious reality completely surrounding us. As any 19th-century samurai would tell you, it's not death that brings the darkest fears. It is the fear of aiming for middling mediocrity that truly chills the soul. That samurai I believe would tell you about a beauty that exists in perfection, or, more accurately the endless pursuit of perfection. If we agree that the best samurai is one who never needs to engage in mortal combat, we immediately understand that's because of his sublime skill. In creating order out of little more than energy and willpower, battle can be forestalled, held off, made irrelevant. In the viscousness of endless, even ruthless competition, there is beauty in the stillness of the battle not enjoined.
Did you miss it? In that clarity of resolved intention there is deeply elegant beauty. It is the pursuit of perfection delivered in such a way as to appear effortless. Despite the viciousness of all things, there's beauty if we look, if we see, and if we appreciate and will ourselves to notice minute yet essential details. I would rather spend my conscious energies intentionally inventing the world than endlessly enjoining grinding fights to survive the world. Is that really just a matter of semantics? Perhaps. But in naming the world, we create the world. Therefore, I name the world: beautiful, even as vicious competition from all quarters relentlessly stalks us all.